Text of the Mitchell Report
Click here for the Official Palestinian Response to the Mitchell Report
October 17, 2000, at the conclusion of the Middle East Peace Summit at Sharm
el-Sheikh, Egypt, the President of the United States spoke on behalf of the
participants (the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the
Governments of Egypt, Jordan, and the United States, the United Nations, and the
European Union). Among other things, the President stated that:
United States will develop with the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in
consultation with the United States Secretary General, a committee of
fact-finding on the events of the past several weeks and how to prevent their
November 7, 2000, following consultations with the other participants, the
President asked us to serve on what has come to be know as the Sharm el-Sheikh
our first meeting, held before we visited the region, we urged an end to all
violence. Our meetings and our observations during our subsequent visits to the
region have intensified our convictions in this regard. It will only make them
worse. Death and destruction will not bring peace, but will deepen the hatred
and harden the resolve on both sides, There is only one way to bring peace,
justice and security in the Middle East, and that is through negotiation.
their long history and close proximity, some Israelis and Palestinians seem not
to fully appreciate each other’s concerns. Some Israelis appear not to
comprehend the humiliation and frustration that Palestinians must endure every
day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation, sustained
by the presence of Israeli military forces and settlements in their midst, or
the determination of the Palestinians to achieve independence and genuine
self-determination. Some Palestinians appear not to comprehend the extent to
which terrorism creates fear among the Israeli people and undermines their
belief in the possibility of co-existence, or the determination of the GOI to do
whatever is necessary to protect its people.
hate, anger, and frustration have risen on both sides. The greatest danger of
all that the culture of peace , nurtured over the past decade is being
shattered. In its place there is a growing sense of futility and despair, and a
growing resort to violence.
proud people share a land and a destiny. Their competing claims and religious
differences have led to a grinding, demoralizing, dehumanizing conflict. They
can continue in conflict or they can negotiate to find a way to live
side-by-side in peace.
much has been achieved. So much is at risk. If the parties are to succeed in
completing their journey to their common destination, agreed commitments must be
implemented, international law respected, and human rights protected. We
encourage them to return to negotiation, however difficult. It is the only path
to peace, justice and security.
violence has not ended (since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit). It has worsened. Thus
the overriding concern of those in the region with whom we spoke is to end the
violence and to return to the process of shaping a sustainable peace.
concern must be ours. If our report is to have effect, it must deal with the
situation that exists, which is different from that envisaged by the summit
participants. In this report, we will try to answer the questions assigned to us
by the Sharm el-Sheikh summit: What happened? Why did it happen?
In light of the current situation, however, we must elaborate on the third part of our mandate: How can the recurrence of violence be prevented? The relevance and impact of our work, in the end, will be measured by the recommendations we make concerning the following:
Ending the Violence·
are not a tribunal. We complied with the request that we do not determine the
guilt or innocence of individuals or of the parties…
late September 2000, Israeli, Palestinian, and other officials received reports
that Member of the Knesset (now Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon was planning a
visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Palestinian and U.S.
officials urged then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to prohibit the visit. Mr. Barak
told us that he believed the visit was intended to be an internal political act
directed against him by a political opponent, and he declined to prohibit it.
Sharon made the visit on September 28 accompanied by over 1,000 Israeli police
officers. Although Israelis viewed the visit in an internal political context,
Palestinians saw it as highly provocative to them. On the following day, in the
same place, a large number of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and a large
Israeli police contingent confronted each other. According to the U.S.
Department of State, “Palestinians held large demonstrations and threw stones
at police in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police used rubber-coated metal
bullets and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, killing 4 persons and
injuring about 200.” According to the GOI, 14 policemen were injured.
demonstrations took place over the following several days. Thus began what has
become known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” (Al-Aqsa being a mosque at the Haram
al- Sharif/Temple Mount).
GOI asserts that the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of
the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the “widespread appreciation
in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse.”
In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was
aimed at “provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of
regaining the diplomatic initiative.”
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) denies the allegation that the
intifada was planned. It claims, however, that “Camp David represented nothing
less than an attempt by Israel to extend the force it exercises on the ground to
the perspective of the PLO, Israel responded to the disturbances with excessive
and illegal use of deadly force against demonstrators; behavior which, in the
PLO’s view, reflected Israel’s contempt for the lives and safety of
Palestinians. For Palestinians, the widely seen images of Muhammad al Durra in
Gaza on September 30, shot as he huddled behind his father, reinforced that
the perspective of the GOI, the demonstrations were organized and directed by
the Palestinian leadership to create sympathy for their cause around the world
by provoking Israeli security forces to fire upon demonstrators, especially
young people. For Israelis, the lynching of two military reservists, First Sgt.
Vadim Novesche and First Cpl. Yosef Avrahani, in Ramallah on October 12,
reflected a deep-seated Palestinian hatred of Israel and Jews.
began as a series on confrontations between Palestinian demonstrators and
Israeli security forces, which resulted in the GOI’s initial restrictions of
the movement of people and goods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (closures), has
since evolved into a wider array of violent actions and responses.
their submissions, the parties traded allegations about the motivation and
degree of control exercised by the other. However, we were provided with no
persuasive evidence that the Sharon visit was anything other than an internal
political act; neither were we provided with persuasive evidence that the PA
planned the uprising.
we have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA
to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that
there was a delilberate plan by the GOI to respond with lethal force.
there is also no evidence on which to conclude that the PA made a consistent
effort to contain the demonstrations and control the violence once it began; or
that the GOI made a consistent effort to use non-lethal means to control
demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. Amid rising anger, fear, and mistrust,
each side assumed the worst about the other and acted accordingly.
Sharon visit did not cause the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.” But it was poorly timed
and the provocative effect should have been foreseen; indeed, it was foreseen by
those who urged that the visit be prohibited. More significant were the events
that followed: the decision of the Israeli police on September 29 to use lethal
means against the Palestinian demonstrators; and the subsequent failure, as
noted above, of either party to exercise restraint.
DID IT HAPPEN?
roots of the current violence extend much deeper than an inconclusive summit
conference. Both sides have made clear a profound disillusionment with the
behavior of the other in failing to meet the expectations arising from the peace
Expectations: We are struck
by the divergent expectations expressed by the parties in relating to the
implementation of the Oslo process. Results achieved from this process were
unthinkable less than 10 years ago. During latest round of negotiations, the
parties were closer to a permanent settlement than ever before.
Palestinians and Israeli alike told us that the premise on which the Oslo
process is based – that tackling the hard “permanent status” issues be
deferred to the end of the process – has gradually come under serious
GOI has placed primacy on moving toward a Permanent Status Agreement in a
nonviolent atmosphere, consistent with commitments contained in the agreements
between the parties.
PLO view is that delays in the process have been the result of an Israeli
attempt to prolong and solidify the occupation… “In sum, Israel’s
proposals at Camp David provided for Israel’s annexation of the best
Palestinian lands, the perpetuation of Israeli control over East Jerusalem, a
continued military presence on Palestinian territory, Israeli control over
Palestinian natural resources, airspace and borders, and the return of fewer
than 1% of refugees to their homes.”
sides see the lack of full compliance with agreements reached since the opening
of the peace process as evidence of a lack of good faith. This conclusion led to
an erosion of trust even before the permanent status negotiations began.
Perspectives: During the
last seven months, these views have hardened into divergent realities. Each side
views the other as having acted in bad faith; as having turned the optimism of
Oslo into suffering and grief of victims and their loved ones. In their
statements and actions, each side demonstrates a perspective that fails to
recognize any truth in the perspective of the other.
Palestinian Perspective: For
the Palestinian side, “Madrid” and “Oslo” heralded the prospect of a
State, and guaranteed an end to the occupation and a resolution of outstanding
matters within an agreed time. Palestinians are genuinely angry at the continued
growth of settlements and at their daily experiences of humiliation and
disruption as a result of Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinians see settlers and settlements in their midst not only as violating
the spirit of the Oslo process, but also as application of force in the form of
Israel’s overwhelming military superiority.
PLO also claims that the GOI has failed to comply with other commitments such as
the further withdrawal from the West Bank and the release of Palestinian
prisoners. In addition, Palestinians expressed frustration with the impasse over
refugees and the deteriorating economic circumstances in the West Bank and Gaza
Israeli Perspective: From
the GOI perspective, the expansion of settlement activity and the taking of
measures to facilitate the convenience and safety. Of settlers do not prejudice
the outcome of permanent status negotiations…
Israelis point out that at the Camp David summit and during subsequent talks the
GOI offered to make significant concessions with respect to the settlements in
the context of an overall agreement.
however, is the key GOI concern. The GOI maintains that the PLO has breached its
solemn commitments by continuing the use of violence in the pursuit of political
to the GOI, the Palestinian failure takes on several forms: institutionalized
anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement; the release from detention of terrorists;
the failure to control illegal weapons; and the actual conduct of violent
operations… The GOI maintains that the PLO has significantly violated its
renunciation of terrorism and other acts of violence, thereby significantly
eroding trust between the parties.
Israelis and Palestinians alike the experience of the past seven months has been
intensely personal. We were touched by their stories. Israeli and
Palestinian families used virtually the same words to describe their grief.
widespread violence, both sides have resorted to portrayals of each other in
hostile stereotypes. This cycle cannot be easily broken. Without considerable
determination and readiness to compromise, the rebuilding of trust will be
of Violence: Since 1991, the
parties have consistently committed themselves, in all their agreements, to the
path of nonviolence. To stop the violence now, the PA and GOI need not
“reinvent the wheel.” Rather they should take immediate steps to end the
violence, reaffirm their mutual commitments, and resume negotiations.
of Security Cooperation: Palestinian
security officials told us that it would take some time for the PA to reassert
full control over armed elements nominally under its command and to exert
decisive influence over other armed elements operating in Palestinian area.
Israeli security officials have not disputed these assertions. What is important
is that the PA make an all-out effort to enforce a complete cessation of
violence and that it be clearly seen by the GOI as doing so. The GOI must
likewise exercise a 100 percent effort to ensure that potential friction points,
where Palestinians come into contact with armed Israelis, do not become stages
for renewed hostilities.
collapse of the security cooperation in early October reflected the belief by
each party that the other had committed itself to a violent course of action. If
parties wish to attain the standard of 100 percent effort to prevent violence,
the immediate resumption of security cooperation is mandatory.
historic handshake between Chairman Arafat and the late Prime Minister Rabin at
the White House in September 1993 symbolized the expectation of both parties
that the door to the peaceful resolution of differences had been opened. Despite
the current violence and mutual loss of trust, both communities have repeatedly
expressed a desire for peace. Channeling this desire into substantive progress
has proved difficult. The restoration of trust is essential, and the parties
should take affirmative steps to this end. Given the high level of hostility and
mistrust, the timing and sequence of these steps are obviously crucial. This can
be decided only by the parties. We urge them to begin the process of decision
In September 1999 Sharm
el-Sheikh Memorandum, the parties pledged to take action against "any
threat or act of terrorism, violence, or incitement."
involves the deliberate killing and injuring of randomly selected noncombatants
for political ends. It seeks to promote a political outcome by spreading terror
and demoralization throughout a population.
its official submissions and briefings, the GOI has accused the PA of supporting
terrorism by releasing incarcerated terrorists, by allowing PA security
personnel to abet, and in some cases to conduct terrorist operations, and by
terminating security cooperation the GOI. The PA vigorously denies the
accusations. But Israelis hold the view that the PA's leadership has made no
real effort to prevent anti-Israeli terrorism. The belief that is, in and of
itself, a major obstacle to the rebuilding of confidence.
believe that the PA has a responsibility to help rebuild confidence by making it
clear to both communities that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and
by taking all measures to prevent terrorist operations and to punish
perpetrators. This effort should include immediate steps to apprehend and
incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction.
The GOI also has a
responsibility to help rebuild confidence. A cessation of Palestinian-Israeli
violence will be particularly hard to sustain unless the GOI freezes all
settlement construction activity. Settlement activities must not be allowed to
undermine the restoration of calm and resumption of negotiations.
each of our two visits to the region there were Israeli announcements regarding
expansion of settlements, and it was almost always the first issue raised by
Palestinians with whom we met. The GOI describes its policy as prohibiting new
settlements but permitting expansion of existing settlements to accommodate
"natural growth." Palestinians contend that there is no distinction
between "new" and "expanded" settlements; and that, except
for a brief freeze during the tenure of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, there has
been a continuing, aggressive effort by Israel to increase the number and size
Tension: We were told by
both Palestinians and Israelis that emotions generated by the many recent deaths
and funerals have fueled additional confrontations, and, in effect, maintained
the cycle of violence. Both sides must make clear that violent demonstrations
will not be tolerated. We can and do urge that both sides exhibit a greater
respect for human life when demonstrators confront security personnel.
and Responses: For the first
three months of the current uprising, most incidents did not involve
Palestinian use of firearms and explosives… Altogether, nearly 500 people were
killed and over 10,000 injured over the past seven months; the overwhelming
majority in both categories were Palestinian.
characterization of the conflict, as "armed conflict short of war,"
does not adequately describe the variety of incidents reported since late
September 200. Moreover, by thus defining the conflict, the IDF has suspended
its policy of mandating investigations by the Department of Military Police
Investigations whenever a Palestinian in the territories dies at the hands of an
IDF soldier in an incident not involving terrorism.
has arisen between the parties over what Israel calls "the targeting of
individual enemy combatants." The PLO describes these actions as
"extra-judicial" that is "in clear violation of Article 32 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention…." The GOI states that, "whatever action
Israel has taken has been taken firmly within the bounds of the relevant and
accepted principles relating to the conduct of hostilities."
are deeply concerned about the public safety implications of exchanges of fire
between populated areas. Palestinian gunmen have directed small arms fire at
Israeli settlements and at nearby IDF positions from within or adjacent to
civilian dwellings in Palestinian areas, thus endangering innocent Israeli and
Palestinian civilians alike. We condemn the positioning of gunmen within or near
civilian dwellings… We urge that such provocations cease and that the IDF
exercise maximum restraint in its responses if they do occur. Inappropriate or
excessive uses of force oftento lead to escalation.
the Palestinian side there are disturbing ambiguities in the basic areas of
responsibility and accountability. We urge the PA to take all necessary steps to
establish a clear and unchallenged chain of command for armed personnel
operating under its authority.
In their submissions and
briefings to the Committee, both sides expressed concerns about hateful language
and images emanating from the other… We call on the parties to renew their
formal commitments to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and to abstain
from incitement and hostile propaganda.
and Social Impact of Violence: Further
restrictions on the movement of people and goods have been imposed by Israel on
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These closures take the three forms: those
which restrict movement between the Palestinian areas and Israel; those which
restrict movement within the Palestinian areas; and those which restrict
movement from the Palestinian areas to foreign countries. These measures have
disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
particular concern to the PA has been the destruction by Israeli security forces
and settlers of tens of thousands of olive and fruit trees and other
agricultural property. The closures have also had other adverse effects.
acknowledge Israel's security concerns. We believe, however, that the GOI should
lift closures, transfer to the PA all revenues owed, and permit Palestinians who
have been employed in Israel to return to their jobs. Closure policies play into
the hands of extremists seeking to expand their constituencies and thereby
contribute to escalation. The PA should resume cooperation with Israeli security
agencies to ensure that Palestinian workers employed within Israel are fully
vetted and free of connections to terrorist organizations.
Places: It is particularly
regrettable that the places such as the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in
Jerusalem, Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem have been the
scenes of violence, death and injury. These are places of peace, prayer and
reflection which must be accessible to all believers. Places deemed holy by
Muslims, Jews, and Christians merit respect, protection and preservation.
Force: One of the most
controversial subjects raised during our inquiry was the issue of deploying an
international force to the Palestinian areas. The PA is strongly in favor of
having such a force to protect Palestinian civilians and their property… The
GOI is just as adamantly opposed to an "international protection
force," believing it would prove unresponsive to Israeli security concerns
and interfere with bilateral negotiations to settle the conflict We believe that
to be effective such a force would need the support of both parties.
leaders do not wish to be perceived as "rewarding violence."
Palestinian leaders do not wish to be perceived as " rewarding
occupation." We appreciate the political constraints on leaders of both
sides. Nevertheless, if the cycle of violence is to be broken and the search for
peace resumed, there needs to be a new bilateral relationship incorporating both
security cooperation and negotiations.
cannot prescribe to the parties how best to pursue their political objectives.
Yet the construction of a new bilateral relationship solidifying and
transcending an agreed cessation of violence requires intelligent risk-taking.
It requires, in the first instance, that each party again be willing to regard
the other as a partner.
define a starting point is for the parties to decide. Both parties have stated
that they remain committed to their mutual agreements and undertakings. It is
time to explore further implementation. The parties should declare their
intention to meet on this basis, in order to resume full and meaningful
negotiations, in the spirit of their undertakings at Sharm el-Sheikh in 1999 and
GOI and the PA must act swiftly and decisively to halt the violence. Their
immediate objectives then should be to rebuild confidence and resume
GOI and the PA should reaffirm their commitment to existing agreements·
and undertakings and should immediately implement an unconditional cessation of
GOI and PA should immediately resume security cooperation.·
bilateral cooperation aimed at preventing violence will encourage the resumption
of negotiations… We believe that the security cooperation cannot long be
sustained if meaningful negotiations are unreasonably deferred, if security
measures "on the ground" are seen as hostile, or if steps are taken
that are perceived as provocative or as prejudicing the outcome of negotiations.
PA and GOI should work together to establish a meaningful "cooling off·
period" and implement additional confidence building measures.
PA and GOI should resume their efforts to identify, condemn and·
discourage incitement in all its forms.
PA should make clear through concrete action to Palestinians and·
Israelis alike that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and that the PA
will make a 100 percent effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish
perpetrators. This effort should include immediate steps to apprehend and
incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction.
GOI should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural·
growth" of existing settlements. The kind of security cooperation desired
by the GOI cannot for long co-exist with settlement activity.
The GOI should give careful consideration to whether settlements which are focal
points for substantial friction are valuable bargaining chips for future
negotiations or provocations likely to preclude the onset of productive talks.
The GOI may wish to make it clear to the PA that a future peace would pose no
threat to the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian State to be established in
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
IDF should consider withdrawing to positions held before September 28,·
2000 which will reduce the number of friction points and the potential for
GOI should ensure that the IDF adopt and enforce policies and·
procedures encouraging non-lethal responses to unarmed demonstrators, with a
view to minimizing casualties and friction between the two communities.
GOI should lift closures, transfer to the PA all tax revenues owed, and·
permit Palestinians who had been employed in Israel to return to their jobs; and
should ensure that security forces and settlers refrain from the destruction of
homes and roads, as well as trees and other agricultural property in Palestinian
PA should renew cooperation with Israeli security agencies to ensure,·
to the maximum extent possible, that Palestinian workers employed within Israel
are fully vetted and free of connections to organizations and individuals
engaged in terrorism.
PA should prevent gunmen from using Palestinian populated areas to fire·
upon Israeli populated areas and IDF positions. This tactic places civilians on
both sides at unnecessary risk.
GOI and IDF should adopt and enforce policies and procedures designed·
to ensure that the response to any gunfire emanating from Palestinian civilians,
bearing in mind that it is probably the objective of the gunmen to elicit an
excessive IDF response.
reiterate our belief that a 100 percent effort to stop the violence, an·
immediate resumption of security cooperation and an exchange of confidence
building measures are all important for the resumption of negotiations. Yet none
of these steps will long be sustained absent a return to serious negotiations.
is not within our mandate to prescribe the venue, the basis or the agenda of
negotiations. However, in order to provide an effective political context for
practical cooperation between the parties, negotiations must not be unreasonably
deferred and they must, in our view, manifest a spirit of compromise,
reconciliation and partnership, notwithstanding the events of the past seven
J. Mitchell, Chairman
member and Majority Leader of the United States Senate
President of the Republic of Turkey
of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Member of the United States Senate
High European Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, European Union
© 2005 Palestinian American Council